China’s Funniest Foreigner entertains in Chinese: Rifat Karlova

February 2, 2011

We read in the Turkish media that you were discovered on the street, but I am sure many people still don’t know what happened exactly when the managers discovered you and later you started to become famous. Would you share with us your story of fame?

I think it is kind of destiny that the managers offered me a role when I was walking down the street. It was 2006 and me and my friend were going to have lunch. They stopped me on the road and asked me whether I wanted to join their casting of HISTORY OF TAIWAN PEOPLE, it was a very big budget state TV documentary film. Afterwards I got the role and acted as a very famous historic man called George Leslie Mackay who came to Taiwan in the Qing Dynasty period and worked here as a doctor.  Later I started to get new chances from entertainment companies and slowly started to appear on television shows. Once you get in this business Ithink you have 2 choices: you will go with passion and work hard, or you will be out of business. So I chose to be successul and continue my way in entertainment. Because I was coming from the same background in Turkey and it was not that far business experience for me to entertain people.

How about doing stand up comedy after studying many different majors in universities?  Besides you also finished your master’s in the Political Science department in Taiwan at National Taiwan Normal University.

Studying more or different majors is actually the most powerful thing on the stage or TV business. Because the things you learned and experienced help you to understand more about life. You can look at many different things at the same time. My every major is very important for me and I still use the power I earned when I was studying. In Taiwan I studied Political Science and it helps me understand Chinese people, culture and history. I also took courses from Taipei University of Arts for acting and script writing in Taiwan. When you see my stage and TV shows you can see that I use many different angles to entertain people. Sometimes very funny ways and sometimes serious ones; this is because of my educational background.

Why didn’t you choose Taiwan instead going Europe to study?

I come from Europe actually and European culture is very close to where I live in Turkey. I don’t feel anything special about that for me. However, here in Taiwan I opened a new door for my future. Chinese culture is still very far away from Turkey and Europe so it attracts me more than any other place in the world.  10 years ago I saw that China is getting stronger and more popular place to develop my career. I finished Chinese department at Ankara University and got the Taiwan scholarship. So now I am here in Taiwan, the beautiful island.

Rifat Karlova is getting more popular in Taiwan and Chinese speaking world. What about Turkey? People still don’t know you there right?

Yeah in my country people dont know me as people know me here in Taiwan and Mainland China. Because information goes to Turkey from the West. Thats why people can not follow the things in Asia. We still dont know many big Chinese stars in Turkey and Europe. If I were in Hollywood and doing the same things that I did in Taiwan, I would be very popular now. It is all about the connection of our media, people and society with the western culture. However, Chinese culture and development is now faster than any other place in the world, I am sure many westerners will learn more about China very soon.

In one of your interviews you said “ I want to achieve international things“ what kind of achievements you done and want to do more?

Since I was a little kid I was looking to the future with hope and create bigger things. I never wanted to stay in my place and am always open to develop myself to find new treasures in the world. That’s why I dont want to be a person that no body knows and remembers after I pass away. This is maybe because my horoscope is Leo, actually my dad is also the same, we are both after dreams.  First of all what I want to do is create new TV formats for world audiences. I want to go Mainland China to make bigger performances and TV shows. Some of my TV appeareances can be seen from coutries near Taiwan such as Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines. However as a foreign entertainer it is not that easy to go forward with different face and style. Thats why it takes really long time to develop your career here in Asia.

The things I’ve done here, in 2008 the TV series of Great Love TV we were nominated best foreign TV Drama in Korea. I won couple of talent contests in Taiwan. In 2010 I got the 2nd place title in the International Hong Kong Comedy Festival. I sent an English Stand Up comedy show to IN THE FACE RADIO in the US. In Turkey we created a working group to plan our steps in the business. I have demos and TV show formats that are ready to discuss with producers. We also created the website “Colorful Television“ and write about the entertainment, sharing my experiences with the world. In the future I want to create new travel and talk shows for Turkey too.


What is your plans about Stand Up Comedy ?

Stand Up comedy is a very challenging stage performance for me but also it trains my stage skills all the time. I feel I am training on stage and getting ready for bigger audiences on TV. As we know, today’s many successful stars first did their appereances on the stage of stand up comedy. Such as Jim Carrey, Woody Allen, Robin Williams etc. One of my plans about stand up comedy is to do some performances in Mainland China and even in US for Chinese speaking audiences.


Your native language is Turkish and you are doing Chinese stand up comedy. Don’t you think it is very hard to make people laugh in other language?

Actually it is very hard to make people laugh but if you feel that power in your heart you can make it. I did many German shows when I was in Turkey and entertained people. Here in Taiwan now I am creating shows for Chinese people and try to tell them different stories from our lives. I sometimes imitate stars, sometimes tell jokes, sometimes play games with audiences and still discovering how to make them more happy. Because stand up culture is very very new in China. It is a bit more developed in Hong Kong and Taiwan but for Mainland it is very fresh. That’s why it takes time to let people join our shows.

What is the difference between Turkish humor and Chinese humor?

Chinese people like to laugh at things from their own traditional culture but we Turkish people we like to laugh at many things from any place in the world. Turkish people like to joke all the time in their lives but Chinese people are more serious in everyda life. We more like to play with audiences and do some sex oriented jokes in the West. However, in Mainland China, it is not a very popular way to create jokes like that way and jokes are more story based.  Hong Kong and Taiwan comedians are more close to American style comedy. In Turkey we also create very much observational comedy. In Chinese culture they have “XIANG SHENG“ or in English “Crosstalk“  traditional comedy. It is 2 or more comedian’s funny dialogues on the stage and contains very traditional style of comedy for Chinese people. But I think the most freestyle comedy is in the US in the world. There is no limit there. But in Chinese and Turkish culture we still have some barriers and we don’t cross that line to create comedy.

What is the secret of success in comedy and do you think you are successful?

I think the most important thing is believing yourself. Being natural on the stage connects you with your audience. If you want to be an entertainer, you have to like to entertain people. Even you are sad, you have to entertain them too. The way of your life and energy is very important. Your brain has to work 24 hours, even in sleep the brain is still thinking of new jokes or shows. Being fresh and creating new shows makes you a very strong entertainer. As long as you have an audience it means that you are succesful what you are doing. I’ve never been beaten by an audience yet so it means that I am succesful for now.J

We are watching Chinese stars on TV and you are working with them. What is the feeling working with those stars?

In Taiwan I almost saw and worked with all the big TV stars. This is a very unique experience for me. I learned many things from them and gained new experiences. Most of them are very modest and nice people. Being next to them is very exiting. I am sure what I’ve learned from them are the keys for my own entertainment career.

How people can watch your shows?

They can find my shows in many video share websites such as China’s YOUKU, or YOUTUBE. I have a Facebook account and we share many of my shows there. I have Twitter, Myspace and Weibo accounts too. Anyone, anytime just needs to visit the pages and see my shows. They can also visit my website and see my shows on www.rifatkarlova.com I would be very happy to welcome all who want to watch my stage and TV shows

Would you like to share a joke with us?

Sure, I would be happy to. “ As you know I studied National Taiwan Normal University and if I translate it into Chinese it is very funny that my university name is something about “NORMAL.” People ask me why it is normal ? I say to them “Because students are studying and teachers are teaching, isn’t it normal?”  Thank you very much for giving me a chance to share my story and life with people. Wish you and all people happy Chinese New Year.


This interview was done by young reporter Ugur Bakici.



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